I saved the best emotion for last in the series of emotions of understanding the emotional impact of having a sibling with a disability.
The 3 P’s: Protective, Possessive, and Pride. I did this on purpose because NO matter the emotions and the weight that comes with being the sibling to someone with a disability, the 3 P’s overpowers them ALL! We learn at a very young age to be protective , we take pride in helping, and we become possessive knowing we are in fact the best friend to our sibling.
God chose me! God gave me a brother who needed me to help , love, understand, and protect. I can’t emphasize the word protect enough. That is what all siblings do for one another , but let me tell you it’s bringing it to a whole new level when they have a disability.
The greatest thing my parents gave me was a “get out of jail” free pass to defend , advocate , and protect my brother at all costs. (Now I might have taken that to an extreme level when I got in trouble in elementary school for hitting another kid for calling my brother retarded, but he deserved it). My protective radar was always up, and it was like I prepared myself always to expect people to act or say things negative towards my brother. I was always on the defense. At times I admit I might have even been hyper sensitive to situations around me, just because I didn’t know how to assume every situation wasn’t about my brother’s disability. It’s like you start defending, advocating, and protecting for so long you don’t know how not too. My guard was never down, and still isn’t to this day at 34 years old.
Sometimes I was possessive with him, because I didn’t think others could love him or treat him like I could. Even when people would try, I would always be right there being the mama bear telling them how to do something, what to say, and when to back off. I would second guess people’s intention, only because I was possessive while be protective!
Then there was pride. Pride when he competed in the Special Olympics with so much happiness. Pride that God selected me to experience his joy for life. Pride when I taught him to do something for the first time. Pride because he is my biggest fan (I mean he would be the only one hollering from the stands at my softball games “throw them the spitball, frog”. My nickname on my softball team was frog, and still to this day he calls me frog.) I would take pride in the fact he would love me endlessly, no matter what I did.
As I summarize this blog series of emotions of understanding the emotional impact of having a sibling with a disability, I hope they have left you with hope, insight, and certainty.
Hope that through the darkness of times in the life journey of growing up with a sibling and experiencing the uneasy emotions of hate, guilt, jealousy, and embarrassment you in fact will overcome these emotions to see the true blessings and unbelievable love your sibling gives you.
Insight to why you experience these emotions, and understanding you are not alone. More importantly I hope parents have found insight on how to open up with their children to have conversations about these real and raw emotions.
Certainty that everything is going to be okay even when you might at times feel these emotions shared in the series. I have experienced each of them at times and my brother still is the only person in this world that has impacted my life’s journey. I became a Special Education teacher and then a founder of a Nonprofit organization in which provides social, functioning learning, employment, and living opportunities for those with disabilities. My life is impacted because my brother has a disability, and I would not change it for the world, no matter the emotions I felt growing up. Find certainty that you will understand the why at some point in your life.
My Imprint :
Parents takeaway: it is definitely okay to empower and teach your “typical” developing child to protect and take up for their sibling. My all-time role model is my mother, and I saw her everyday fight and advocate for my brother, so of course I wanted to do the same. She is my hero. Although this is great and the whole family becomes empowered, give a free pass sometimes when they are young. Don’t expect them too (because it naturally will happen), allow them to let their guard down from time to time. Don’t let them feel pressured that everything should be an “awareness moment” or a teaching moment to change another person’s views.
Teacher takeaway: if you have a student who has a sibling with a disability, allow a healthy space (when they desire) to educate and advocate for their sibling’s disability. Sometimes if given the platform to educate, it allows us to stop the little things to not bother us as bad. Don’t push this to happen if they are not ready, but maybe encourage when you find it appropriate. Peer on Peer training about real life subjects such as disabilities can really open up doors of acceptance, while allowing your student to let their guard down of protection.
Community Member takeaway: you might at times ask why one might be too sensitive to the subject of disabilities? Or maybe even you have experienced a situation when you witnessed a “mama bear” moment that you felt was taken out of context. Hopefully, after you read this blog you understand we can’t turn the protective mode off, and we always feel the need to defend. Don’t assume we are being too sensitive, when you don’t know the history of what we’ve had to defend or advocate for. Be patient and understanding with us until we can gain the reassurance, understand the intentions, and take a moment to breathe. Also, provide understanding and acceptance to allow a sibling and/or parent to openly and daily advocate and provide awareness about those with disabilities. Some may become annoyed and avoid these people because they don’t understand that their passion for awareness comes as strong if not stronger than someone’s passion and involvement with sports, politics, etc. It’s their life, their well-being, and it might just be what you needed to hear, because you never know when your life might be impacted by someone with a disability.